Monday, June 19, 2023

Ordering order

My ongoing story over the past three and three-quarters years has essentially been about trying to find order, both literally and, well, existentially. I’ve made a lot of progress in both areas over that time, and even though there’s so much farther to go, I think it’s important to celebrate small victories—which is good, because most of my victories have been quite small. I’ve learned, though, that small victories lead to bigger ones.

The photo at right is of one such small project to bring order to my life, this one relating to everyday life, aesthetics, and with a dash of self-satisfaction thrown into the pot. The top half of the photo is how I was storing the pasta I use the most frequently, and the lower part of the photo is how I’m storing it now. There were several reasons I did that.

First, though, the self-satisfaction part: After I moved into this house, and especially during that first Covid lockdown, I began watching a lot of YouTube videos, and I subscribed to all sorts of channels. Among them were some “lifestyle” channels in which the YouTuber shares tips and tricks for things like organising the home, decluttering, even cleaning. While the information is often useful, and I often get good tips, I watch mainly because the hosts are entertaining and engaging—and, YouTube videos are usually short, which fits my attention span quite well.

What I’ve noticed about many of the videos is how often they suggest tips that I already worked out ages ago, such as, “decanting” grocery items so they don’t take up so much room in the panty. I’d realised that years ago.

I began by putting single-use packets of meal ingredients (like gravy mix) into a small bin, so they could all stand upright, making it easier for me to find what I was after. More recently, I became frustrated by rice.

I have several varieties of rice, and the bags were always sliding off a small shelf in my pantry, and that was annoying. I’d also accidentally bought a second bag of sesame seeds because the bag I had was hidden under other stuff. I first tried placing the bags in small bins, but they took up too much room. This was my next move—putting them into containers:

The two rice containers are ones I already had (and were made in New Zealand using phthalate and BPA free plastic), and the sesame seed one is a jar that coffee came in. The labels are cut from their packages. This is actually based on a trick I used decades ago: When I filed statements and bills, I made a label for the hanging file folder that was the company’s logo (usually from the envelope the bill came in). As I said to Nigel at the time, those companies had invested time and money in creating a memorable logo and to promote it, and that meant I could quickly spot the folder I was looking for.

While our digital age means that I no longer need to file any bills or statements, the principle is the same: A recognisable label is a good idea, and the two rice labels are from a brand I’ve always bought. The Sesame seed one wasn’t, but it was certainly legible.

However, the pasta containers don’t—and won’t—have labels. Right now, they sit out on my kitchen bench, and I may keep them there even after I finally get my pantry reorganised. The plastic is as clear as glass, and it’s obvious what’s inside (they’re also made in NZ by the same company that made the rice containers above, again using phthalate and BPA free plastic). In this case, labels would be visual clutter, especially when I only stock three varieties of pasta. On the other hand, all I have several varieties of rice, almost all of which look alike to me, so having the containers clearly labelled saves me time, and I've labelled other containers, except one for "ordinary" rice. Actually, labelling is probably a topic in itself—but one for another day.

This whole project began with me trying to bring some order to chaos—in this case, storage of meal ingredients. At first, I was determined to use what I already had on hand, like for the rice, and even the pasta storage containers I used at first (which is why they were mismatched). However, I do buy new containers when I need them, and those YouTubers had good advice about that: People shouldn’t buy storage containers until they know exactly what they need. Unfortunately, that good advice came a little late: I still have some things (small bins, mostly) that I bought, only to find out they didn’t work for my intended use. I know I’ll find a good use for them because so far, I always have.

And that’s just a little glimpse of my road to a small victory in the kitchen, something that’s helping me work toward a bigger victory: A tidy, orderly kitchen. And all of that is, of course, part of of that much bigger project: Achieving some existential order, too. I think I’m well on the way toward celebrating that much bigger victory—eventually. One small victory at a time, after all.

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